2012/03/31 | 419 views | Permalink |
In this new segment I'll be extending my appreciation as well as scorn to all things Korean. From Korean culture and customs, to specific events, celebrities and ideas, judgement will be passed and praise given. It's all about taking the good with the bad, the bitter with the sweet, and the praiseworthy with the seriously questionable; this is Tip of Hat, Wag of the Finger.
The Finger: Gobbing on the Go
The unspoken social conventions operating in Korea work seamlessly to keep its highly concentrated populous functioning, largely without incident. Its normative beliefs, customs, and expectations are fascinating to outsiders and it's these very ingrained social understandings and behaviours that mark a country as 'foreign' and fascinating. Superstition, social customs, table manners, general etiquette, all that is different from our own is worthy of commentary and thought. While most alien customs found in Korea are admirable to the point of possible mimicry, spitting whenever, wherever you like is not one that my, apparently prim and proper, British upbringing will allow me to adopt.
Picture a smoky saloon in the Wild West, a rough and tough hero strides through the entrance, cocks his head back, hacks one up and then lets it fly across the room into a rusty tin can patrolled by flies. Well its not quite like that, but in this realm Korea seems to be a bit backward. First, instead of spitting being limited to country folk of questionable fathering, in Korea the closer to a city's centre you find yourself, the more likely you will be taken aback by spit-stain sidewalks and walkways. But even I could possible see past young and middle-aged men letting a gob fly every once and a while, but when I see high school girls and younger throw their heads to the sky and back down again with a liquid surprise, I have to question the future of this, apparently civilised, society. Even the elderly aren't immune to this bizarre phenomena, scaring their image as dainty, frail, and loveable old people with squishy cheeks and sound advice, and replacing it with intimidating creatures with enough saliva to drown, or digest, a small cat.
Alright, its not as bad as all that, but it is something that newcomers, especially westerners, will notice rather quickly. That doesn't distract from my repulsion of the acceptability of it all. When a loving couple are walking down a street together hand-in-hand, and the girl tilts her head to throw one down, that's one thing. But when her partner doesn't even raise an eyebrow at the act, that's when you know things haven't gotten out of hand. I am definitely wagging the finger at this one Korea!
The Hat: Active Elders
Korea is country where generations live together in close proximity, and with that comes a remarkable bond between generations that cements the importance of the family unit. I am not talking about seeing your grandmother once or twice a year here, but having your grandparents active in your daily life, doing things that Westerners might understand to be within the responsibility of our parents. The elderly are, in fact, very involved with their children and grandchildren, it's a culture of caring and love that, hopefully, won't have completely evaporated as the younger generation re-considers itself. But that's not exactly what I am tipping my hat to this week; instead it is their dedication to remaining active that has me reaching for my hat.
Spring has, according to the newspapers and nothing else, arrived in Korea. And with the change of season I know two things for a certainty. The first is that spring will come and go before I have even realised it was here, as per Korean Springs, and, second, the elderly will be out and about in Korea's beautiful array of parks and mountains. There will be grandmothers doing laps, grandfather's playing 'Janggi' (Korean chess), clusters of the elderly chatting away around the provided exercise equipment, and many more working out and just being active. I can't even claim that spring is the only time they emerge. Unlike bears waking from a long and miserable winter, which believe me Korea has, the winters I mean, the older generation here finds a way to get out all-year round, a wonderful sight and equally energising to all.
I think it would be marvellous to grow old in a country where such things are encouraged and seem to be considered the norm. So to the older generation in Korea and their ability to make me feel ten years older and full of shame, I tip my hat to all of you!
- C.J. Wheeler ([email protected])
"[HanCinema Korea's Diary] Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger (1)"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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